Revisions, revisions. Sometimes we spend more time reading, re-reading, and editing our work than we did writing it. In addition to checking spelling, grammar, punctuation, and content, we need to look out for words and phrases we use too often. What are some techniques which can make this time more profitable?
- Have someone read the manuscript aloud to you
It’s surprising how much we can pick up when we hear the words we’ve written. Just the inflection of one’s voice might reveal something that doesn’t work. Jot down notes on anything you want to change later.
- Utilize Ctrl H
Many of you probably already know about this tool, but if you’re like me and learned about computers on your own, you might not have discovered it yet. By pressing and holding Ctrl and hitting H, you can change words or phrases throughout your document all at once. Just be sure to click “whole words only” or you might end up with a mixed jumble in some places. When I change a character’s name or a title, this little device saves lots of time.
- Use a word search such as Ctrl F to hunt down and replace overused words or phrases
We all have pet words and phrases–those pesky little things that show up too often in our manuscripts. I never realized how much I repeat certain words until I discovered Ctrl F.
After striking these keys, type in the suspect word or phrase, click “find next,” and watch the page numbers to gauge how close together the terms are as you continue the process. Although time consuming, this in-depth search has helped me to not only eliminate problem words, but I’ve stumbled upon weaknesses and improved sentence structure as well. When I find a better word for the one I’ve targeted, or decide the word can be left out, I feel I’m improving my writing in more than one way. It’s better to go through your document a little at at time, since this procedure can be tiring.
In addition to said, asked, and little, which we know to watch out for, some words I find so often in my work are: there, that, some, after, before, when, looked, glanced, thought, wondered, later, just, quickly, nodded, smiled, finished, finally, realized, reached, started, and of the. I leave the ones that really belong, but otherwise, I try to find a better way to express what’s going on, especially if the duplicate words are too close together.
All three of these methods have contributed to my writing, and I’m sure they’ll help you, too. I just wish I’d discovered them years earlier!